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Book Review: Fruit, Flower & Flames by Carolyn Dean

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Fruit, Flower & Flames, the 8th book in the Ravenwood Cozy Mystery series written by Carolyn L. Dean, was published just last year. I had purchased all the remaining books in her series around Christmas but just got around to finishing them this week. Now she’s published books 9 and 10… which I’ll be reading at some point. Kudos to her for growing a fine series of short, light and easy-to-digest mystery and small-town-happenings books where it’s more about the characters than the plots.

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In this caper, Lisa announces she’s dating the son of a wealthy family who’s returned to Ravenwood Cove after abandoning the town years ago when their business went bust. It all seems to fast and shady for most of the friendly inhabitants, but Amanda wants to support her bestie. With more free time on her hands, as James, her new husband, is out of town, Amanda befriends the family only to watch a tragic fire impact them. But when someone turns up dead and it’s definitely arson, what’s the real scoop? Throw in some friendly flower competition, renovations from a new contractor, and some lingering doubts about who to trust, and you’ve got a fun little read.

I’m enjoying the development in the series. I wish they were about 20% longer just to give us a bit more meat to pull apart when trying to decide the culprit, but I always enjoy the banter and camaraderie of the various families and friends. While not the best in the series, it’s got a good story and brings new people to the town. Dean is successful in moving the plot along while continuing to build a town we’d all like to visit — minus the rather large amount of murders that happen in a single place, of course.

 

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: The Ka by Mary Deal

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5 stars! After reading one of Mary Deal‘s novels last year, I knew I wanted to read a few more. Upon checking out the list, The Ka, seemed like the most appropriate given my interest in Egyptian history, pyramids, mummies, and curses. I was definitely not disappointed; in fact, I was rather quite intrigued to learn a whole lot more about some of the pharisees and queens during this historical period after reading the book. Kudos to Deal for making the story so interesting that I didn’t want to stop learning once I put it down.

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Not a frequent paranormal reader, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about that part of the story. Deal puts those concerns to bed rather quickly, as though there are elements of the past coming back in full force to the future in mystical ways, it’s not at all like the movie The Mummy (which I loved) where ancient creatures are chasing the archaeologists and inhabitants of Cairo. There’s something fantastical and lyrical about the way the past is connected to the current… a romance re-ignited by a common love for discovering what lurks beneath the Egyptian pyramids and a quest to survive though you’ve been hunted by your rivals.

Deal’s approach to telling the story is a slow build at first, keenly pulling in readers who become invested in a vast array of team members on this search. At the center, Chione, who has been having peculiar and vivid dreams, leads the group to discover several opportunities for finding tombs and burial chambers that no one believed existed. Is she losing her mind? Is she actually having a connection with the queen who mysteriously died in the past? Is she just playing along to try and win someone’s affection? All these thoughts and more will cross your mind as you read a well weaved story with tons of roller coast moments.

Tut is a very popular former pharaoh, but what’s the full story behind his demise, the war occurring in the lands, and his potential suitor queens. Add in the quest to become famous, find love, become a mother despite medical complications, and a need to believe in something beyond what is tangible, this book covers a great range of emotional needs and reactions to what’s happening over the course of a 4-month period. We invest in the characters as people who need to reach various goals, but we also learn all about the haunting ways of a few core Egyptian families near 4 millennia ago. It’s a fascinating story and keeps your attention in every angle or arc.

Deal has a fantastic grasp on build-up, ensuring readers’ appetites might be satiated every few chapters knowing full well the twists and surprises will come at unexpected times. The intimate knowledge revealed in this story must have been researched extensively. I’m quite impressed by the educational experience I had while reading the book — all in a good way where I enjoyed learning about the culture, interpersonal dynamics, and life experiences of several prominent Egyptians in the past. Between the descriptions of the settings and demeanor / moods of the characters, you feel like you’re in Egypt nearly two decades ago (when story takes place).

Another fine example of Deal’s work… and it’s just pushed me to pick up a third later this year. Just need to decide which one it should be… thanks for a fantastic read! I’ve done an author spotlight in the past on Mary Deal. Check out more about her books, life as an artist, and fun interview we had last year.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Rocks, Roses & Riptides by Carolyn Dean

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After reading a few books in the Ravenwood Cozy Mystery series last year, I purchased the rest from Amazon last fall. I’m closing out all books on my TBR that I currently own so on July 1st, I have nothing in my owned queue and can begin picking out new reads for the second half of the year. Don’t worry, I have plenty in line… 1200+ on my TBR and about 20 I’ve agreed to read at some point this year! This week I’m focusing on Carolyn L. Dean and the 7th book in her series, Rocks, Roses, & Riptides.

rocks.jpgI find Dean’s style charming and easy-to-read — usually in less than 90 minutes. Her books are light and fluffy with a bit of fun sentiment, romance, and small-town investigation. While I thought the last book I read in the series was a little too simple, this one stepped it back up… I was very happy with the mystery, investigation and outsiders coming to town for a TV reporting segment. Add in a few TV on-air reporters, camera guys, assistants and other staff, you’ve got tons of suspects when the not-so-nice female reporter suddenly falls face first into a cake she’s sampling as part of the segment. Poor Ruby, Amanda’s friend, who’s trying to win the competition — did she suddenly turn bad? Was it someone in town with connections to the TV reporting crew? Or was it someone in the crew backstabbing their leader?

Amanda tries to stay out of it, but she’s smack in the middle, especially when she’s almost kidnapped to help cover up the crime. She’s too good for that, but she has to find a way to escape. Her wedding is about to happen in the next few days… she can’t be a corpse bride, right? Of course she makes it, but the story keeps you guessing until the end. Kudos to Dean for making this one of the shiners in the series so far. Although it covers more outsiders than insiders of Ravenwood, there are lots of other side stories to keep our favorite townies in the mix. I can’t wait to start the the next one and see if married life will agree with Amanda.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Sun, Sand & Secrets by Carolyn Dean

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In the 6th book, Sun, Sand, & Secrets, of the Ravenwood Cozy Mystery series published in 2017 by Carolyn L. Dean, Amanda ponders the question of what it will mean to marry her sweetheart, James, a local police detective. In the course of her analysis, Madeline Wu, a local shopkeeper we’ve met before, goes missing, then someone turns up dead. Along the path, a neighboring town’s mayor gets involved, and some new romances might be brewing around the lovely little Oregon town.

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I enjoy reading about the comings and goings of Amanda’s renovated bed and breakfast / inn. This book felt more like a mini-edition, prepping us for Amanda’s upcoming nuptials, rather than a full-on mystery. While it was fun, cute, and cozy, the mystery was very light – much more than usual. I enjoy light mysteries, but the crime didn’t happen until about 50% into the book, and there wasn’t a lot of investigating in the second half. It was a good read, but not a standout in the series. Still worth taking on, as it’s under 2 hours… and I really do love the interactions Meg, Truman, Gram, and all the other wonderful characters.

I like inserting these types of books into bigger thrillers so I get a break from major analytical thinking, but I still have some puzzles to solve and the comfort of a fun, warm and interesting setting. It’s not a complete week unless I’ve sneaked in a cozy of some sort. Two more reviews to write, then I officially shut down and begin vacation mode!

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Full Moons, Dunes & Macaroons by Erin Johnson

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All I can say is wow. The fifth book, Full Moons, Dunes & Macaroons: A Cozy Witch Mystery, in the Cozy With Spells & Caramels Mystery series, by Erin Johnson, is my favorite one so far. In this fun tale, Imogen spends a lot of time with her newly found brother learning all about what happened to her as a child… including facts about her birth parents, why she and her brother grew up separately, and how she fits into the world of Monsters Rise. When the concept of the ‘mirror’ came into play, I totally found myself enamored again with the series. What intense and wicked imagination Johnson has!Full
But it doesn’t stop there. MAJOR changes in the relationships among all the bakers and royal family members suddenly blast through the pages of this adorable story. Imogen is at the center of everything, including the murder of someone from the Fire Kingdom followed by a re-visit from the great fire monster of the past. The plot is truly immersive and cohesive in this latest edition in the series. I feel like we’re done with the initial world-building of this gem and finally figuring out what all the rules are in terms of how Imogen became a witch. There’s still a ton of room for more background to unfold, but we’ve got the basics now and I look forward to seeing how this one will continue.

For those new to the series, you’ve got magic, fantasy, family drama, mystery, royalty, baking, and quirky humor that has a few cute double entendres. The mysteries have been on the lighter side as the full world and cast is dazzled before us, but they’re growing stronger. Books are on the shorter side, easy to devour in one afternoon for a couple of hours. You should start from the beginning to catch up, maybe even read 2 in a row to get the full picture. Happy reading!

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Trapping by Ann Jones

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After reading Missing, the first book in the Lyn Kramer mystery series by Ann Jones, I wanted to read more. When the second book, Trapping, was published earlier this year, I anxiously grabbed a free copy during the initial marketing launch and put it into my reading schedule for May. It was next up this week and as soon as I jumped in, it felt like I’d never left the story… kinda like I was home again. It actually takes place just hours after the first book ended, which for anyone who read it knew clearly there was a lot more to be revealed in the story. Twins separated for ~30 years couldn’t possibly not get together and re-discover themselves, right? Jones doesn’t disappoint, seamlessly transitioning from finding one another in the first book to protecting one another from a lecherous uncle in this second one.

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Jones has created a very relatable family in this series. Raised separately by their two grandfathers, the twin girls’ parents died under mysterious circumstances long ago. One was mistreated by her uncle, forced into a life of crime. The other became a cop. Who better than to take down the crime family than the force of their reunited bond? Book two kicks off with a secret plan to lure the uncle out of hiding and hopefully convict him of a number of crimes over the years. But Uncle Lester is very smart, keeping himself at least two degrees separated from his henchmen doing any dirty work. He can’t be connected to any crimes, but he can still hurt both girls. Throw in a story about a hit-and-run driver, a drug ring operating in a small Midwest town, a growing romance re-ignited after a decade, an ex with a grudge, and a difficult family reunion, the book has it all.

Though dubbed “writing clean suspense with a touch of romance,” I feel there’s a lot bigger picture going on in the books. The writing style is clean and direct making it easy to stay connected with and keep turning the pages. The characters are well drawn, full of angst and emotion, history and love. The new criminals are shady but also potentially mere red herrings. Their are budding romances at many generational levels. The cast of culprits leaves you with a dozen or so characters who could be working for Uncle Lester, reporting back any information on Lyn and Melissa, or they could just be normal citizens caught up in their own webs of deceit. Who knows? Only those who read the book, right? So get on it!

What I like most about the book is that although there’s a mystery, and even with the suspense and drama, at its core this is a story about a family torn apart by good and evil. When the twins were separated years ago, a rift the size of Kansas was opened… and it’s not going to heal in 1 or 2 books. There is longevity here in these characters which is always something important I seek in a new series. Jones creates balance, just enough tension on the surface that you know things are gonna blow up, just not when it will happen. It could be this book, it could be the next one… but a family separated for over two decades doesn’t just heal overnight. And since the span of the first two books barely covers a few weeks, there’s a lot of unexplored time. I’m confident Jones will deliver in creating a few explosive moments in the near future.

Can’t wait til she publishes the third one… now if I could only find a way to get the answer of when and where it will happen. Kudos for an excellent follow up in this series. For more info, check our her website @ https://annjonesbooks.com/ where you can find her social media profiles and other sites, too.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Booktique: Intro to an Editor

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As a writer, we often think we are in full command of our language and grammar skills. In many of those instances we are probably strong, but at the same time we’re also not experts in everything. Nor should we be… writers and editors require different tool sets and knowledge. Many of the skills overlap, but there are several differences where it’s always important to find an editor who can help you succeed as an even stronger writer. It’s also important to have someone else read your work other than early beta readers, especially if you are self-published or your publisher doesn’t handle editing.

Stay tuned for another post in the future about the different types of editing, but for now, consider editing the generic term for someone assisting you with writing your novel from style / word choice to punctuation, spelling to proofreading, and story consistency to character development. I connected with a fantastic editor about six months ago shortly after she’d read my first novel, Watching Glass Shatter: Nicki Kuzn of Booktique Editing. It’s been such a fantastic experience that I wanted to share a bit about her so others in need of editing assistance can consider a similar route.

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After publishing Watching Glass Shatter, I’d read through it over a hundred times believing I’d caught every possible proofreading, grammar, or spelling issue before it was published. After seeing a few reviews noting some issues (that I couldn’t find!), I asked Nicki to take a look for me as I was getting ready to update the final version with a few minor fixes before a huge marketing campaign. Nicki quickly read through the novel and sent back a ton of feedback. I had ~40 issues with spelling mistakes, words missing, or incorrect formatting. On top of that, she provided suggestions for improving the language and dialog, too. All her feedback was easily categorized so I knew what was a mistake versus potential issue, style option and choice, or general recommendation.

I made nearly ALL the edits and sent it back for a final review. Nicki found a few more items and really helped polish this novel — the way I should have had it when it first launched. Coming away from that process, I’d learned two things: (1) how/where I tend to make my mistakes (thanks to Nicki’s kindness and how easy it is to work with her) and (2) she was definitely getting my second book once I had a final draft for review. Nicki eventually read Father Figure in early January and worked with me through 3 revisions to finalize the version going to my publisher. She went above and beyond what we initially discussed as the focus areas and amount of time for each one. Nicki is fast, reliable, honest, friendly, and very focused. I always knew our schedule and believed we could build a great partnership in adding the finishing touches to my novel. I can’t wait to work with her again on my third book later this year.

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If you’re in the market for an editor, or even just want to talk to one about the different types of editing or approaches she could take, I encourage you to spend some time on her website reviewing her options, testimonials, and portfolio. Then call or email her to discuss pricing… I’m confident you’ll find it fair. She’s easy to work with, but at the same time doesn’t hesitate to push back a second time when you indicate you don’t want to change something. She provides the reasons why and why not, then lets you make the decision as the content owner. I always knew when it was a required change versus a subjective one.

I also learned how to stop using so many commas… I still am heavy with them, but not as much thanks to Nicki’s guidance and basic rules. Two of the best aspects of working with Nicki include (1) an extremely reasonable price given the level of expertise and energy she brings to the table, and (2) incredibly quick turn-around time. In every round, Nicki delivered sooner than she planned — and sometimes when she’d tell me I’d have everything back in 48 hours, it would be in my mailbox after only 24 hours. It was a writer’s dream because of the efficiency and quality included in the package. You can see more on her Facebook page, link to her site or read some details below to help decide if this is the right path for you.

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About Nicki Kuzn

I spend many hours reading. I was thinking one day (after reading a novel which was not proofed very well) that I could do this with excellent results, thus began Booktique Editing. Since I am a perfectionist, there is nothing more frustrating for me while reading to come across typos, incorrect grammar and punctuation, and incomplete sentences. It is too easy to lose your train of thought, and reading slows down for me when I have to figure out what is actually being said. Also, I am sure there is nothing more frustrating for an author to receive negative comments from reader reviews about errors in their publications. I can fix this for both the author and the reader.

I have made it my goal to ensure that any author/client of mine publishes an error-free book. I usually read a book several times before I return it to the author; I will review it again after the author has gone through my suggested changes. I check for spelling, grammar, typos, punctuation, consistency along with suggested changes to content when I feel they are warranted or necessary.

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